Five years after anti-Kremlin journalist Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down near her Moscow home, Russian authorities have arrested a former senior police officer suspected of masterminding her murder.
Politkovskaya's opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper broke the story, reporting that retired police lieutenant colonel Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov had been arrested on charges he received money to obtain the murder weapon and organize the criminal group that carried out the assassination.
Russian authorities confirmed the arrest, although its timing remained unclear.
"According to the investigation, Pavlyuchenkov received the order to organize the killing of Anna Politkovskaya from an unknown individual in exchange for a monetary reward, and gave his agreement," Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the investigative committee, said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
Markin said Pavlyuchenkov was suspected of giving money, a gun and a silencer to Politkovskaya's alleged killer, Rustam Makhmudov. Makhmudov was arrested in late May.
The announcement of Pavlyuchenkov's arrest marks a major development in the October 2006 murder case, which has yet to produce any convictions.
Family welcomes news
Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer for the journalist's family, spoke of a "turning point" in the investigation.
"We will make sure that all those who were involved in this murder are brought to justice," she said.
Of Pavlyuchenkov, the lawyer said: "We had long suspected that he could have been involved."
The alleged mastermind of the attack testified in the case in 2008, albeit as a witness, according to a report by Novaya Gazeta.
Two Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, and former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov were tried for suspected involvement in the killing but were acquitted in 2009 based on a lack of evidence.
Their acquittal has since been annulled by Russia's top court, and a new investigation is open with the same suspects.
A thorn in Putin's side
Politkovskaya was awarded several international prizes for her reports accusing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of using the Chechen conflict to stifle democracy during his presidency.
Her killing sparked international outrage and underlined the dangers facing reporters in Russia who dare to challenge the authorities.
In the days following Politkovskaya's murder, Putin called the killing "an unacceptable crime that cannot go unpunished" but also described her influence on Russia's political life as "insignificant."
Politkovskaya's case is regarded as a symbol of the challenges to press freedom in Russia.
Author: David Levitz (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler